Does your dog growl or bark when other dogs approach their food bowl, bones, or a coveted spot on the sofa? Do you have to feed your dogs separately to avoid a conflict?
Is resource guarding between your dogs causing you stress and anxiety?
Resource guarding is a common behavioral problem, especially in multi-dog families. It’s totally normal for dogs not to want to share valuable resources. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that their very survival depended on protecting their food and belongings from other animals.
But just because a behavior is normal doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Dogs who guard resources can be unpredictable, and dangerous situations can result from the behavior.
This article will introduce you to resource guarding between dogs and help you take steps to manage and correct the behavior.
What is Dog-to-Dog Resource Guarding?
Resource guarding, or possession aggression, as it is sometimes called, occurs when a dog tries to protect a coveted “resource” from another dog or person.
A resource is anything your dog finds valuable enough to protect. It can be food, bones, a dog bed, or even a crumb dropped on the floor.
Some dogs will guard resources simply by using defensive body language, while others will growl or bark at dogs who come too close. Dogs with serious resource guarding issues will often stage an aggressive attack to prevent other dogs from threatening their possessions.
If your dog is aggressively protecting resources from you or another person?
Why Do Dogs Guard Resources from Other Dogs?
As I mentioned above, resource guarding is a normal canine behavior. It is partly instinctual, partly genetic, and also influenced by the dog’s environmental and situational stimuli.
Before dogs were totally reliant on humans to meet their basic needs, they relied on aggression to ensure they had enough food to survive. The threat of losing a resource was a matter of life and death.
Resource guarding dogs who have been integrated into family life are often insecure and unable to cope well in social situations. They consider other dogs a threat to their well-being and security.
Preventing Resource Guarding Before it Starts
Any dog, no matter how well-bred can develop undesirable behaviors. Because resource guarding can be potentially dangerous, it is best to take steps to prevent the behavior before it starts. Here are some suggestions for preventing your dogs from resource guarding.
- Socialize your puppy to people, situations, and other dogs. Insecurity plays a big part in resource guarding behaviors. While your puppy is young, it’s important to expose them to as many new situations as possible so they are well-versed in the ways of the world. They should play with friendly dogs often, both in your home and in other environments. Be sure to expose them to dogs of many breeds, sizes, and ages.
- Teach your dogs to be polite. Your dogs should always know to wait their turn at the food bowl, when entering and exiting the house, and even when playing with toys. Dogs without manners will start to expect everything they want right then and there, which could lead to problems later on.
- Feed and treat your dogs together. If your dogs show no signs of resource guarding, the best thing you can do to keep it that way is to feed them together, encouraging politeness with lots of praise. Periodically have your dogs sit together as you dole out treats to each one. Only give treats to dogs who are waiting patiently, and always change up which dog gets treated first. This teaches your dog that good things will come if he waits quietly. It also teaches them that other dogs are not a threat to their resources.